Almost every culture around the world has some mythological or folklore connection with the undead. Ghosts, ghouls, demons, and zombies could almost be used interchangeably to describe such monsters. Our modern mythology (pop culture and the arts) has lent each of them a unique identity and a set of rules popularly attributed.
All except for the ghoul that is. Of all the undead, the ghoul is the most underutilized in fiction. Most people wouldn’t be able to list the defining characteristics of a ghoul and that’s because they have so few. Ghoul is a term broadly used for some type of undead creature who may or may not haunt graveyards and consume human flesh.
Outside of literature, Tokyo Ghoul has done the most to give the ghoul defining and unique attributes. While the ghouls in Tokyo Ghoul are not undead, the shift from that classic enabled the showrunners to be more creative in giving the creature a definition.
Ghouls are cannibalistic monsters that closely resemble humans. This enables them to hunt them more effectively. Ghouls must devour human flesh in order to survive and have a special predatory organ called a kagune. A kagune is a special kind of appendage with exclusive traits that vary from one ghoul to the next. They are best described as “liquid muscle” and is a prominent feature of ghouls.
In my mind, Tokyo Ghoul is responsible for turning a C-list monster into an A-lister, furthering its modern mythos and making them all around badasses. I hope the show will inspire creatives to use ghouls more often in their works and take note of how much redefining a monster’s rules can make your projects stand out from the rest.